Storms by Emily Walling

If you’re standing on a pink sand beach in the Caribbean, the sun burning your back and monstrous thunder speaking to you across the salt water, you should probably listen. I should’ve listened. The sky roared at least half a dozen times, but I mentally shoved cotton into my ears. Bliss and a light day misguided my judgement, the storm rolling in quickly. My husband bleeding on the beach.

Photo of beach and palm tree
Caribbean by Mary Sauers. CC license.

Carl and I spent the day in the town of St. George on the northern part of Bermuda. We went in and out of the shops, visited a perfumery filled with tourists, and dined at one of the waterfront restaurants. But our real reason for taking the ferry to St. George was because we were on a mission to visit a specific beach. Our destination was Alexandra Battery, an area supposedly known for beautiful sea glass. We had a map but no direct way of getting to the beach. So, we walked.

We hiked up a hill to the Unfinished Church after taking a quick photo at a Moongate in Somers Garden. The Unfinished Church. An inspiring site of what could have been. A reminder that even though our hike in humidity became almost unbearable with backpacks weighing down our sunburned shoulders, we wanted to finish the walk we started. We became excited from the idea of walking to a beach most people in the world would probably never visit.

We never made it to Alexandra Battery, our walk a reflection of the Unfinished Church. Even with obstacles in our way, I was okay with not seeing Alexandra Battery.

My husband and I got lost maneuvering around a fucking golf course. The mini hills blocked our view of the water. When I looked across the green, my eyes darting to the sky, the landscape reminding me of being at a golf course in Ohio. And I didn’t want that. I was on a one-week escape. My honeymoon.

We were hot, the humidity sticking to our skin like honey. I could smell my armpits without having to stick my face down there. His brown, curly hair was sticking out more than mine. Carl noticed I slowed down from exhaustion; he grabbed my backpack from me.

Momentary relief swept through me when we smelled the salt water and heard splashing and the laughter of carefree children. Carl and I unfolded our map and leaned in, sweat falling from our faces and staining the crinkled paper. We ended up at Tobacco Bay, which we quickly realized was not Alexandra Battery (again, thanks to social media and looking at photos before leaving). Too much sand and dark rocks blackened by cloud cover. Tobacco Bay is a hot spot for snorkeling because of the calm, turquoise water. Unfortunately, I left my snorkeling gear back in our cottage. But we knew we were at Tobacco Bay. Carl’s sense of direction and map reading astonishes me.

Too many people yelling and splashing. Seeing everyone having fun made me smile, but I wanted something a little more serene. The map showed we were on the right road but not quite to Alexandra Battery yet. We had at least another mile to walk.

I looked up at Carl. “No way.”

“It’ll be worth it,” he said, adjusting the backpacks slung across his shoulders.

He was right; I wanted to reach Alexandra Battery. Seeing him have the energy to keep going gave me enough of an energy boost to move forward for a little longer. The road along the coast was mostly flat but uneven from decade’s worth of beating and hurricanes. We moved on.

We walked down the road for about ten minutes, and we reached a castle. Or, the heat was getting to me, and I thought it was a castle. Fort St. Catherine. To me, the fortress looked like a European castle built into the side of a cliff. Battered gray walls. Old cannons aimed at the ocean. I imagined artillerymen shouting ‘Fire’ while I gawked at the view. The sand wasn’t as pink as some of the other beaches we visited, but it was soft and fine when I grabbed a handful.

We found a shaded area on clean sand near some trees, and we dropped our belongings there. I pulled out my swim gear and towel from my bag. There was a restaurant near the top of the hill, but we figured we couldn’t get in judging from the attire of people walking inside. Thankfully, there was one outhouse on the beach. A very old outhouse. I fell over trying to get my clothes off and spit up from the smell of week-old shit.

The salty air felt nice, calming my stomach back down. Carl immediately went into the water and swam to some rocks near the side of the small cliff. I’m normally the one to do something daring first, but I needed to regain energy after walking a couple miles in the heat. I would’ve loved to sit out there with him and gaze up at the towering fort.

I watched Carl climb up the rocks. He sat out there, at peace like a statue. I smiled and walked along the beach. I jumped when I stepped on a sharp object. Lifting my foot, my eyes widened when I saw a piece of dark red glass. I mistook the red for my blood; beach glass! I’m not a beach glass expert, but I heard dark red was uncommon. Thankfully, my foot wasn’t cut. I picked up the beach glass and set it on my towel.

I scoured the beach for glass, and I encountered more pieces than I expected. Fort St. Catherine’s Beach wasn’t covered in beach glass like I saw in photos of other places in Bermuda. However, I collected a couple handfuls worth and piled them on my towel. I gave up on the idea of finding Alexandra Battery. The day was halfway gone, and I enjoyed being at this beach. The area was remote, like we were at the edge of the world. I spent time searching for beach glass along the short, sandy strip and a few feet into the ocean. Carl continued sitting atop the black rocks.

Once I regained some energy, I swam out until my toes couldn’t find the bottom. The water warmed my skin, a slight breeze keeping the sweat at bay. I stayed observant, remembering locals informing us about how to spot a Portuguese Man o’ War. Mesmerizing blue balloon looking creature floating on the water, a stinging I certainly didn’t want to experience.

Cumulonimbus formed in the distance with light thunder as the backdrop. The sun was still above us; passing storms were normally quick, with sun on the way. I should’ve known better when I saw the clouds darkening over the ocean. I assumed the rain would miss us, but no. The changing atmosphere pressured my sinuses; my body knew the storm was going to grab and shake us.

The calm water quickly turned choppy, and I fought against the waves to return to shore. The rain brought the waves to life, gave them vigor. I screamed at my husband, my mouth half filling with salt water. I panicked, afraid the ocean would swallow him permanently. This was the first time we swam together. I didn’t know if he had swimming skills.

I stayed in the water where my feet met the bottom and watched him jump from the rocks and fight the ocean. And spit out the salt water as quickly as it continued accumulating in my mouth. I waited for my chance to swim out farther and try to grab him.

Thankfully, Carl returned to shore, the waves forcing both of our bodies into the sand. He didn’t have his glasses on. My first thought was ‘Ugh. There goes $500’ with my second thought being ‘I thought he was going to drown. Does he see I’m about to cry? I love him so much.’ Those thoughts should’ve been reversed.

Carl grabbed his glasses from his pocket and put them on. We grabbed our belongings and hid under some trees. I fled more quickly than Carl. He walked slow, exhausted from swimming back to shore. Our towels were so wet they became heavier to carry than our backpacks. The backpacks were also drenched, along with most of our belongings. With no reason to keep our beach towels, I tossed them in a nearby wire garbage can.

Carl started taking off his water shoes. “I don’t think your tennis shoes are going to be any more comfortable than those,” I told him. Our shoes were in our backpacks and became victims of water.

He didn’t say anything.

“Is something wrong?” I asked.

“Depends on how you define wrong,” he responded.

When Carl took off his right water shoe, his foot was covered in blood. I bent down to grab his ruined water shoes and threw them out. There was a downed tree nearby, and I had him sit so I could examine his foot. At this point, the heavy rain turned into a light misting. I kept thinking ‘Oh my god! Stop fucking raining!’

The blood. It wouldn’t stop. The cut wasn’t long, maybe a couple inches. Deep though and wouldn’t stop bleeding. His foot got sliced on the outside near his pinky toe.

“Not sure if you saw the shoe, but the shoe got sliced open,” Carl told me.

He said he slipped when trying to get off the rocks and into the water. A sharp rock ripped the light fabric of the shoe and cut his foot. ‘Jeez, Carl,’ I thought.

We had no cell phones with us. I prefer electronic-free vacations. We had a box of bandages, but the box was back in the cottage. No food or water bottles. Away from town, with no way to get back to the square besides walking.

I dug through Carl’s backpack, which contained our clean clothes smooshed at the bottom. Fortunately, most of our clothes stayed dry. Our tennis shoes blocked the rain from reaching the clothes. I fished for one of Carl’s socks. Dammit. Why did it have to be a white sock?

I gently grabbed Carl’s foot and wiped away some blood so I could see his skin. The wound wasn’t gushing blood, but it was still bad. He slightly winced. After I cleaned off the foot, I fished through the backpack to find the other sock. I tightly wrapped the sock around the foot like a tourniquet, covering the entire wound. I wanted the bleeding to stop.

Photo of dark clouds with sun breaking through over water
A Storm is Brewing by Nicolas Winspeare. CC license.

A couple in their fifties, or maybe early sixties, came to the beach sometime after we did. I saw them grab their towels as I swam back to shore. They ran to the nearby restaurant to stay dry. That was my initial plan once we got out of the water. Carl didn’t think we would be able to get inside because of a dress code. When I changed into my bikini earlier and almost puked in the outhouse, he walked to the restaurant to see if 1) we could use the restaurant bathroom, and 2) if we could eat there after our swim. The answer was ‘no’ to each question.

What made it okay for that couple to go into the restaurant completely drenched and smelling just as bad as us? I wanted to say ‘Fuck it, Carl. Let’s go over there and at least use their bathroom.’ But he winced every time he tried to stand on that foot. He wasn’t getting anywhere, especially to a building hundreds of feet away.

The older couple left their scooters by the beach. We should’ve rented scooters in St. George. I wish we had the money; that day could’ve ended differently. The couple left their bags and towels on top of the scooters. Bizarre. Granted, we were in a very remote part of the island, but I could’ve snatched those bags and ran. I don’t think about stealing; I would be upset if someone stole my belongings. But wasn’t disturbed at the time about contemplating theft. In the moment, my only concerns were making sure Carl was going to be okay and not being stranded at Fort St. Catherine. If we went to Bermuda tomorrow and relived this again, I’d still act the same.

We needed a bathroom and bandages. The island presented these two scooters for us. A way to get back to St. George. I kept looking at my husband. What else was I supposed to do?

Carl rifled through our packs to see if anything else was ruined and needed to be thrown out. While he was preoccupied, I slyly started going through the older couple’s bags on their scooters. I looked for the keys and nothing else. I couldn’t find keys. Only clothes and sunscreen. I opened a small compartment on the scooter and stopped when my husband looked up.

Going through someone else’s belongings momentarily nauseated me, irritating the storm building inside. I am not a thief. I saw an opportunity to return to town.

I looked up toward the restaurant and saw the doors fling open. I immediately stepped away from the scooters and sat on the downed tree with my husband. When the couple walked our way, they made a comment about the random storm.​ They immediately looked through their bags and complained about their belongings getting wet. Or maybe they suspected.

“Yeah,” I said. “Came out of nowhere. My husband cut his foot on some rocks, and we have no way of getting back to town.”

​”That’s not good,” the woman said to me. Her face softened like she started to care.

“Yeah. We’re really stuck. Left our phones in the cottage. I don’t know how we’re going to get back to St. George.”

The man and woman got on their scooters and started them up. “That’s a real bummer. I hope everything works out for you guys,” she said uncaringly. Her mood changed. Again, did she suspect? Maybe they noticed me rummaging through their belongings.

I was about to ask if we could borrow a phone, but the couple drove away. I thought I gave enough of a hint that we were in a bind and needed help. My husband was fucking bleeding through the sock tourniquet! ​And the scooters were meant to fit two people. It would’ve been easy for them to give us a ride for two miles. I would’ve helped them get back to town if the roles were reversed. But in a remote area where everyone was a stranger to other strangers, I knew they wouldn’t help us. I sensed their insecurity about us being close to the scooters. It’s possible they saw what I did. I’m not a thief, but I was guilty of almost becoming one.

​Carl and I sat on the log for a while. Time felt slow. The wind turned off, and the misting ceased. Humidity remained, and I started turning into a sweat mess again. Carl said his foot wasn’t hurting as much anymore. He wanted to start walking back to town.

Then, both of our heads turned when we heard an engine. A white taxi van dove in and out of the golf course hills.

I jumped up. “Oh my god! We need to grab that taxi!”

With no one else on the beach and no cars left at the restaurant (closed after lunch), the taxi came our way. A sign. A second chance to get out of here.

The taxi driver got out of the car. “Good afternoon. Are you Andrew?” He asked my husband.

I looked at Carl, curious to hear his response. He looked back at me. We were obviously thinking the same thing: should we lie? Yes. Let’s do what we can to snag the cab.

The taxi driver was looking for one person, so I wasn’t surprised when he started getting back in the car. This Andrew guy must’ve been by himself.

“My apologies,” the taxi driver said. “I think he called from up the hill.”

I didn’t want to miss another opportunity to get back to St. George. “My husband could be Andrew if you’re looking for an Andrew,” I told him.

The taxi driver smirked, finding the humor. Yes, I was half being funny. But we really needed the ride.

“My husband got hurt when we were swimming,” I told the man. “He’s bleeding, and we need to get back to St. George.”

“I tell you what,” the taxi driver began to say. “If Andrew not at the restaurant, I come down here to get you.”

“Thank you,” Carl told the man. We watched him drive the taxi up to the restaurant.

He was up there for at least ten minutes. Longer than I expected. There were no cars outside. He might’ve been talking with the owners. I started getting impatient.

Clouds shielded the sun again. I looked to the west; my eye catching a lightning strike. The taxi driver finally came down the hill. My breathing quickened. What if he found this Andrew guy? Was he going to stop for us?

The taxi driver got out of his car. He looked at my husband, a goofy grin on his face. “Good afternoon, Andrew.” The taxi driver’s smile was comforting, especially as the thunder escalated. His humor reminded me there is always a buoy, lighthouse, or life ring in the storms if you choose to look for it.


Emily Walling
Emily Walling’s visual and written work can be found in Apeiron Review, The Caribbean Writer, The MacGuffin, a nuclear impact poetry anthology from Shabda Press, and other journals. She earned an MA in Rhetoric and Writing from the University of Findlay. More of her work can be found at emilywalling.com.

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